Discussion Group

Academic year 2023-24.

Current Organisers: Uta Papen u.papen@lancaster.ac.uk, Karin Tusting k.tusting@lancaster.ac.uk

Hello and welcome back to the Literacy Research Centre Discussion Group. Please see below for the timetable for upcoming talks. updates will be circulated via the LRDG mailing list.

3rd November 1pm UK time

Online talk, Click here to join the meeting

Thinking with Machines: A Model to Understand Student Metacognition when Writing with Generative AI

Christopher Eaton, PhD

Institute for the Study of University Pedagogy, University of Toronto Mississauga

This presentation will discuss early results from research examining how students think with and about generative AI as a tool for their writing. The project used grounded theory to test a metacognitive thinking model that was designed to assess how student writers think about writing in an AI-mediated environment. The talk will explore various ways that 23 post-secondary students at the University of Toronto (Mississauga campus) have implemented AI tools into their writing processes. I will pay particular attention to how the various approaches correspond to the ways students think about writing and about themselves as writers. I will end with a discussion of the implications for literacy pedagogies that, hopefully, will stimulate discussion about implications of AI across contexts.
24th November 2023

1pm UK time

Hybrid talk,

Click here to join the meeting online,

B89 County South to meet face to face

Adult literacies in Scotland – reviewing the territory

Sarah Galloway, Lecturer in Further Education, University of Stirling

Adult Literacies in Scotland – reviewing the territory

Scotland’s curriculum guidelines for Adult Literacies learning maintain adherence to social practices approaches for teaching and learning in Community Learning and Development settings. Sarah offers a high level review of the intentions behind this curriculum and reviews the landscape in which delivery of adult literacies now takes place. Drawing from published and unpublished research, both empirical and theoretical, she will indicate the extent to which social practices approaches continue to be practiced in Scotland, pointing towards questions that researchers might continue to address.

 1st December

1pm UK time

Online talk, Click here to join the meeting

Adult literacies education in England – what has happened to social practices views?

Uta Papen, Lancaster University

In the early 2000s, I, along with many others in the adult literacy field, was optimistic that practice-based and socio-cultural views of literacy were beginning to have an impact on adult literacy policy. In England, a new strategy for adult literacy and numeracy called Skills for Life was introduced. As our government-funded research demonstrated the relevance of a social practices perspective, we hoped that adult literacy would become adult literacies and that curricula would move away from purely skills-based ideas.  Today, by and large, our hopes and dreams have been dashed. In England, Skills for Life has been replaced by Functional Skills, with employability and formal qualifications at its core. As the policy framework has tightened, funding has been significantly reduced.

So what is left of adult literacy as social practice? In my presentation I will share a few examples of ‘cracks’ in the system where traces of a practice-based approach remain visible. But I will also ask a more controversial question: what does the current system offer? What can be learnt in a Functional Skills class? Might a focus on skills and employability be what many learners want? These questions invite us to take a critical look at the social practice perspective and where we may have failed to engage with the realities of policy makers, the media, the wider public and perhaps learners themselves.

9th February

1-2 pm

Online, click here to join the meeting on Teams

Margarita Calderón López

Pedagogía en Educación Básica | Departamento de Estudios Pedagógicos

Universidad de Chile

Literacy practices on indigenous contexts: Decolonizing the curriculum at schools 

This talk presents findings about how literacy practices are used to teach the intercultural curriculum in primary classrooms in Chile. The aims of the research were twofold: to identify the participants’ perceptions about reading and writing in their native language (Mapudungun) and their role to teach this language at school, and to analyze the pedagogical practices involving literacy in classroom. The study of the participants’ perceptions about reading and writing and the pedagogical practices involving literacy in classroom allows us to understand a complex phenomenon that is at the heart of how the communities deal with the less familiar features of their language (i.e. as written practices as Mapudungun is predominantly oral) and how they choose to teach their own language. I argue that literacy practices play a relevant role in the construction of hybrid social identities that bring together traditional school practices with community strategies that allow the educators to decolonize the school curriculum which focused on Spanish literacies to build a space that bridges the school with the community.

16th February


B89 County South.

Hybrid, Click here to join the meeting

Sam Duncan

Professor of Adult Literacies

Director of the International Literacy Centre

UCL Institute of Education

Reading the Way, adult ’emergent’ readers and trying to keep a meaningful social practices approach alive

In this talk, I will outline the genesis and development of the Reading the Way project and its use of reading groups to support less confident adult readers in prison. I’d like to explore ideas of what a ‘social practices’ approach to adult literacy teaching can mean, and how we (the Reading the Way team) aimed to ground our project in a social practices view of literacy, as well as in ideas of adult critical pedagogy and the roles of reading groups in adult lives. I’d also like to explore our use of the term ’emergent readers,’ the complexities of assessing and labelling adult reading, and how our project was a response to the Ofsted/HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ review of reading in prisons (Ofsted/HMIP, 2022), which itself struggles with tensions within notions of the teaching and assessing of reading.

8th March


Hybrid. County South B89, or, Click here to join the meeting

Roria Huang

Lingnan University, Hong Kong

Investigating the Semiotic Construction of Hong Kong-style Café: A Comparison of Hong Kong and the UK

The Hong Kong-style café, known as Cha Chaan Teng in Cantonese, is a ubiquitous feature of the city’s streets. Over the past few decades, its significance has grown from a daily eating habit to a vital symbol of Hong Kong culture.  This study explores the semiotic processes that have accompanied this transformation by conducting an in-depth semiotic landscape analysis of 8 local Cha Chaan Tengs in Hong Kong, categorized into three different levels: revitalized and modern, natural-like, and economically oriented. The objective is to unveil the construction of this unique cultural label and its representation of Hong Kong’s collective identity. The study employs research methods from linguistic landscape studies and ethnographic research, such as digital photography and field notes, to document the semiotic elements of Cha Chaan Teng, including menu and signboard design, and all indoor visible inscriptions. The research framework of Geosemiotics proposed by Lou (2017) will be combined with the Ethnographic Linguistic Landscape Analysis (ELLA) by Blommaert and Maly (2016) to analyze how the visual semiotics, interaction order, and place semiotics of Cha Chaan Teng represent the past, present, and future of this unique Hong Kong culture.

With the immigration waves of Hong Kong people in recent years, many Cha Chaan Tengs emerged overseas to provide Hong Kong people with a place to reunite. The study will next use the data of the previous 8 local Cha Chaan Tengs in Hong Kong to compare with 3 Cha Chaan Tengs in Manchester. Through semiotic landscape studies, the research examines the historical development and current situation of both local and overseas Cha Chaan Tengs and reveals how temporal and spatial changes reflect the transformation of Cha Chaan Teng into a cultural symbol and the wider transformation of Hong Kong society. This study will be the first to use the lens of linguistic landscape studies to compare the Hong Kong-style cafés in local and overseas areas. It aims to provide a new perspective to the field of sociolinguistics in Hong Kong, and raise awareness and knowledge of Cha Chaan Teng’s historical development and cultural significance. More importantly, the study is dedicated to shed light on the formation of Hong Kong collective memory as well as the evolution of Hong Kong society.

15th March, 1-2.30pm (UK time)

Hybrid event:

County South B89 and Teams link

To join the decolonisation seminar click here

Victoria Odeniyi

Nour Elhouda Soulek

Linda Ritchie

Discussion of Special Issue of ‘Decolonial Subversions’ for 2023 on the theme of ‘Decolonising the university and the role of linguistic diversity’

Decolonial Subversions | Special Issue 2023.

In this seminar we will discuss decolonisation with a focus on the role of language and linguistic diversity in support of decolonisation, where the latter goes beyond cosmetic or performative changes and instead works towards epistemological transformation, social justice and well-being for all students and staff.

The seminar is inspired by a special issue of ‘Decolonial Subversions’, published in 2023. The papers in this issue can be accessed here: http://decolonialsubversions.org/special_issue_2023.html

At the seminar, Victoria Odeniyi, Nour Elhouda Soulek and Linda Ritchie will share with us the main ideas from their written papers. This will be followed by a discussion.

Victoria will introduce the special issue and its aims and will talk about her interview with Suresh Canagarajah.

Nour will talk about Creative Nonfiction and Stand-up Comedy as Alternative Forms of Decolonial Scholarship.

Linda will present on ‘Translanguaging as Decolonial Pedagogy: Investigating its efficacy in the teaching of a trans-Atlantic Julius Caesar’.

Victoria and Nour will join us in Lancaster and Linda will deliver her presentation online.

You can take part in person or online.

7th June 2024


Yaimara Batista Fernández, Universidad de Valladolid, Spain School radio as an innovative ecosystem and literacy tool to promote communicative social justice in diverse learners

This research presents two case studies in secondary education and focused on the potentialities of school radio as an innovative ecosystem and literacy tool to promote communicative social justice. The first case was developed during the recording of a radio-adaptation play by students with specific educational support needs, and the second case took place during the school radio workshops, made-up of voluntary students.

To carry out the case studies, triangulation by methods was used, comparing the information obtained through non-participant observation, in-depth interviews, documentary review and podcast analysis. Through these experiences we evidenced two main outcomes:

1) School radio serves as a transversal vehicle to develop critical literacy and promote communicative social justice through the cultural and diverse recognition of the environment to promote equality and equity; the re(distribution) of essential and democratic knowledge for the development of a more just society; and the social and active participation in decision making to critically intervene in the solutions to social problems.

2) School radio in the educational context represents an innovative learning ecosystem, in which we have identified eight different kinds of experiences: a) Authentic learning experience; b) Lifelong learning experience; c) Learning experience beyond the classroom; d) Challenge-based learning experience; e) Digital learning experience; f) Collaborative learning experience; g) C21 learning; and h) Active learning methodologies. It also functions as an educational resource that brings pupils closer to their reality and context and becomes an instrument of social justice by allowing them to see the world from multiple perspectives.

21st June 2024


Kerry Scattergood, Solihull College & University Centre

 kerry.scattergood@solihull.ac.uk Twitter: @KMScattergood

I have 21 years experience teaching literacy in college and community setting. I recently completed a practice-focused PhD, exploring the disconnect of Functional Skills English qualifications and the realities of learners’ lives. I am currently co-editing a book, Exploring Practitioner Research in Further Education: Sharing Good Practice, to be published early next year by Routledge. My research interests include: adult literacy; practice; exploring knowledge in further and adult education settings.

Taking account of the learners: challenging a ‘functional’ view of literacy and using a lens of social practice to explore adult literacy teaching.

The purpose of this presentation is to share the story of my PhD, exploring practice in an adult literacy setting in England.

The current adult literacy qualifications in England are known as ‘Functional Skills’, so I will explore what it means to be ‘functionally literate’ and will contrast the current qualification standards against a wider social practice approach to literacy.

I will argue that a ‘functional’ approach is skills-focused, which makes literacy learning difficult to transfer between domains. I will explore some examples from my own practice and research of how I account for learners’ experience to challenge this disconnect within an adult literacy classroom.

28th June 2024


Pamela Olmos Lopez, Benemerita Universidad Autonoma de Puebla, Mexico

Karin Tusting, Lancaster University

Contrasting academic voices in a bilingual Masters thesis

Developing a distinctive and authoritative academic voice can prove challenging, particularly in a second or additional language. This case study explores academic voice using the unusual example of a Masters thesis written first in English (student’s L2), and then in Spanish (L1) within the field of Applied Linguistics. Although the English version was written competently and correctly, the supervisor felt that the student’s ‘voice’ did not come through. Both student and supervisor felt the subsequent Spanish version conveyed his voice more successfully.

This unique case allowed us to make a comparison of the student voice expression in both languages within the same genre and topic. Direct comparison of the parallel texts identified certain differences. The Spanish version was longer, with more narrative detail. Counting linguistic features using corpus software showed subtle differences, for instance in the use of impersonal constructions and passive voice. However, overall the differences between the two texts were slight in comparison with the definite statements made by student and supervisor. Thus, we explore how the genre expectations for research writing may differ in English and in Spanish, drawing on contrastive rhetoric, and how individual voice interacts with the constraints and possibilities afforded by the genre. We ask what the implications are of this work for teaching and supporting students learning to express their voice in their research writing, both in their first and additional languages.

Previous year’s discussion group schedules